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Recife - Fernando de Noronha - Praia, Cape Verde
21 - 22 May

While I was out buying nutri-bars and nuts for the long trans-Atlantic flight, Lena called Flemming to announce that the Jeppesen charts had finally arrived.  We hastily packed our bags and checked out of the hotel.  We were in need of more Reais so Flemming went over to the Banco do Brasil ATM just opposite the hotel.  It had worked the previous day, but this time we were out of luck.  We took a taxi to Lena's apartment and piled into her car with our luggage and the precious Jeppesen charts.  Flemming checked them first to make sure they had sent the correct ones this time!  Before heading for the Encanta Moça aeroclub, we had to find a bancomat that worked.  After another unsuccessful try, we finally located one inside a shopping centre.

This unforeseen delay, plus the fact that we should have got up about an hour earlier than we did, meant that we arrived at the aeroclub about two hours after we would have liked.  The last time Flemming landed at Noronha, night operations were not authorized, so he wanted to get there before sunset.  We went over to the office to pay the landing  and parking fee to be told with a smile that there was to be no charge.  Instead we were presented with 2 aeroclub caps and polo shirts.  Sr. Domingos, the head of the aeroclub, came specially to see us off and we took a photo with him by the Mooney.

We took off for Recife's main airport, Guararapes, at 12:35 LT, landing just a few minutes later.  Flemming calculated how many litres of fuel we would need so that we would be able to use all the 100 litres that awaited us on Fernando de Noronha and take of from there with full tanks.  After refueling, we were driven over to the terminal and proceeded to the AIS (aeronautical information service) office to file the flight plans for Noronha and Noronha to Praia.  The man in charge asked to see a written authorization from DAC in Rio de Janeiro for the Noronha - Cape Verde flight.   I told him I had phoned DAC Recife the previous day and had been told there was no problem.  (Unfortunately I hadn't taken the name of the guy I spoke to.)  He said I can't have mentioned that we would be flying on to Cape Verde because written permission was absolutely essential. 

He escorted us to the DAC office where the chief of DAC Recife seemed to be impressed that we were friends of Gerard Moss of Ximango fame and that we had appeared on TV Globo. He said he would try to obtain the authorization from Rio immediately.  Strangely enough, DAC in Rio didn't seem to have received our fax sent over a month ago via Margi Moss. Fortunately, we had a printout of it in our files and this was faxed to Rio. Time was ticking by and we were getting very nervous as we needed to take off within half an hour if we wanted to reach Noronha by sunset.   And we still had to go through immigration and customs.

To save time, the head of the AIS office escorted us to the immigration authorities while the DAC office was waiting for a reply from Rio. Thankfully they stamped the General Declaration without seeing the authorization.  With customs, it was another story, however.  They wanted to see the authorization before they would let us go. In despair, we ran all the way back to the DAC office.  The authorization still hadn't arrived from Rio.  Something seemed to be wrong with the fax machine at the Rio end.  Finally the fax arrived about 5 minutes later.  The head of DAC handed us the paper and said 'Boa viagem'.  We seized it, thanked him quickly for all his help, and ran back to the customs office.  After customs, we still had to run back to the AIS office with the authorization as they wanted a copy of it before they would accept the Noronha-Praia flight plan.  There was another short delay while they made the photocopy.

Then it was a question of getting out of the terminal and getting a ride back to the plane which was about a kilometre away.  At Security, we had to wait while the woman official phoned up the AIS office for permission to let us out to the apron.

By the time we finally arrived back at the plane it was clear that our ETA Noronha would be about an hour after sunset.  Flemming was ready to cancel until he consulted the approach chart and airport directory and discovered there were runway lights and that the airport was open 24 hours a day.  So we could leave after all!

It was a relief to be in the air after all that hassle!  The flight went without mishap and we landed in the dark two hours and 20 minutes later. Flemming had been a bit concerned about the numerous hills that surrounded the airport, but he was just able to spot them in the moonlight. As there is not many light on the island, it was pretty much like landing on an aircraft carrier.

Our first concern on landing was to contact Agemar to get the fuel. It was already 7 p.m.  local time (one hour ahead of Recife) but if we were to leave early the next morning, we would have to refuel before retiring for the night. Without bothering to unpack the plane yet, we headed straight to the AIS office. They were most helpful and called Agemar for us.  They said they would come with the fuel. They then phoned the pousada to let them know of our late arrival. 

While we were waiting for the fuel, we went over to the Infraero office to pay the landing fee. Apparently the employee who normally collects the fee had already gone home. The young lad who tried to replace him said we would have to pay about US$ 350!  I said that was madness as landing fees were never over US$ 100 in Brazil and that was quite enough!  I told him that might be the rate for a large jet, but not for a little Mooney.  In order to ascertain the correct rate, he needed to use the special computer programme, but he didn't know how to use it.  Flemming then showed him the bills from Belem and Recife and he painstakingly made out the bill by hand. 

Lorival and Eleno of Agemar had meanwhile arrived with the fuel.   They drove the truck to the side of the plane and helped to pour the precious Avgas into the wings, using the same funnel made out of a cut-off water bottle that Gerard Moss had used about nine months ago when he refueled in Noronha on his way back from his world trip in the Ximango motor glider. Flemming had been very precise in his calculations - the tanks were all full after they had put in the 100 litres.

It was 9 p.m. by the time we were ready to leave the airport. We'd had no lunch and we were starved. Lorival and Eleno drove us to the restaurant where Agemar has a contract for them to eat. The restaurant had stayed open just for us four. While we waited for the meal we downed a  much needed beer and then tucked into a hearty meal washed down with a bottle of Almadén wine. When the time came to pay, Lorival said his boss Manoel Ferreira would be very angry if he learned we had paid for our meal. After all the day's hassles, it was a pleasure to end it with such super guys.

Eleno drove us to the Pousada da Margía and asked what time we would like him to pick us up the next morning.  We accepted his offer gratefully as we thought it unlikely we would be able to find a taxi at 6 a.m. and it was too late to book one.

We were dead tired by this time but Flemming still needed to link up his computer to the Internet to get the satellite images as up to date information about the activity of the ITCZ is extremely important to plan detours or even postpone the flight. Enrique, who runs the pousada, let him link up our laptop to the phone line and then Flemming tried to connect to the Internet through iPass to Recife. He made several unsuccessful attempts over the next half hour. Finally Enrique offered to let us use his ISP and user ID - and bingo! The infrared satellite images looked very good indeed - better than he'd ever seen them.  It was midnight by the time we got to bed and we had to be up at 5.15 a.m. but at least we were confident that we had chosen the right day for our Atlantic crossing and would have slept peacefully if it hadn't been for an annoying mosquito.

Across the Atlantic from Noronha (Brazil) to Praia, Cape Verde

Compared with the stress and hassle of the previous day, the Atlantic crossing was a breeze!  Everything went smoothly and according to plan.   Eleno picked us up punctually at 5.50 a.m. and drove us to the airport.   Flemming uploaded the latest GPS database from his laptop, and we took a photo by the plane with Eleno before taking off at 6.50 a.m.  Viewing Fernando de Noronha by daylight, we thought what a pity it was that we hadn't been able to enjoy at last half a day there.  It is such a beautiful, unspoilt island.

The weather was fine, with a 10 to 15 knot headwind as expected.   We experimented flying between 7,000 and 11,000 feet to find the optimum altitude for the winds.  9,000 seemed to be the best altitude.  About 2 and a half hours out, we descended to 500 ft to fly around the rocks of St. Peter and St. Paul and take some photos. To our surprise, there was a boat achored there. The people on the boat were probably equally surprised to see a low flying aircraft. These rocks are the only pieces of land in the Atlantic between Noronha and Santiago Island, Cape Verde and served as a refuelling rendez-vous for Gago Coutinho and Sacadouro Cabral during their historical first crossing of the South Atlantic in 1922. We 'wasted' perhaps 20 minutes of fuel with the small detour (15 NM extra) and the descent and climb, but we were so confident that the ITCZ was calm and that the winds aloft were good that we did not worry.

We were very lucky with the intertropical front: it was as calm as the IR photos indicated. However, the situation can change pretty fast as shown on the two photos above only 15 hours apart.

To pass the time, I worked on the web pages and read a novel that Lena kindly gave me. Thanks to the autopilot Flemming was also able to read a book in between giving position reports over the HF radio to Recife and Dakar. I would say that the hardest part was after 7 hours when my back and legs started to ache like mad.

We landed in Praia at 5.15 p.m. local time after a total flight time of 9 hours 27 minutes and had still 5:30 hours of fuel left in the tanks. Piece of cake!

A hassle-free arrival

Praia was one of the best airports we have landed at on the whole trip and I told them so.  The landing fee was only US$ 25 and the immigration official waived the necessity for a visa when I told him we were both crew and we would staying less than 24 hours in the country.

We wanted to find a hotel room where we could link up the laptop to the Internet as quickly as possible to let everyone know of our safe arrival.  That proved to be the most trying part of the day.  The first two places we tried were fully booked.  We finally booked into the Praia Mar Hotel where they said there was a direct phone line from the room.  When we got to the room, Flemming discovered that the phone was permanently wired to the wall outlet so he had to fiddle around with a makeshift screw driver in the form of his nail file in order to get the computer connected to the phone line.  Then the connection was very slow and erratic, but he managed to upload the What's New page.

We finished off the day at the Tropico Hotel (a much better managed place where we would rather have stayed) where we celebrated our safe crossing of the Big Pond with a good fish dinner and a delicious Cape Verdean wine from the island of Fogo.


Lena Machado, Aeroclube de Pernambuco, Manoel Ferreira (Agemar), Eleno, Lourival Rocha

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Lena, Flemming, Angela and Domingos at the Aeroclube de Pernambuco on our departure

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Overflying Recife on our way to Guararapes Airport
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There was a 400 NM wide band of thunderstorms observed on the satellite IR (infrared) photo the morning (0545Z) of  21 May. A large detour would be needed.
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The evening of 21 May (2045Z) the satellite IR (infrared) photo looked better than Flemming had ever seen!
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With Eleno of Agemar before our departure from Fernando de Noronha
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On departure from Fernando de Noronha showing one of the mountains that surround the airport
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Sightseeing in the South Atlantic: St. Peter and St. Paul rocks seen from 500 ft
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On our approach to the parched country of Cape Verde
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